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Distance Learning for Early Childhood Webinar

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in Distance Learning for Early Childhood Notes.


  • Sarah Neville Morgan and Stephen Propheter


  • In partnership with the California UDL Coalition

  • Presenters:
  • Kathy Wahl, Santa Clara County Office of Education
  • Kelly Wylie, Santa Clara County Office of Education
  • Brittany Holm, Franklin-McKinley School District
  • Olivia DeMarais, California Department of Education

What and Why
  • UDL definition: a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn
    • Not a "special ed" thing—it's an "everybody" thing
  • Three groups of neural networks that drive learning
    • Affective is the why—reason we learn
    • Recognition is the what—process and store the information
    • Strategic is the how—responsible for focusing attention, communicating and creating, and strategic thinking
  • Learner Variability—variability is predictable, what we can predict we can plan for
  • Curb-Cut Effect—universal support from architecture
    • Assists anyone who has trouble with sharp changes in elevation—don't impede anyone
    • Closed caption is similar universal support
What UDL Is and Is Not
  • Lens, not a checklist
    • Way of looking at learning environments and laying out flexible paths to firm goals
  • Marathon, not a sprint
    • Setting expectations and making slow and steady progress
  • Journey, not a destination
    • Keep making progress toward the vision using guidelines and rubrics
  • Standards-based, not standardized
    • Included in state frameworks
    • Not one-size-fits-all and not everybody do what they want
    • Firm goals, flexible means
The UDL Framework and Guidelines
  • Set Clear, Rigorous Goals
    • Goals should be flexible and clear.
    • Clarify goals vs. lowering expectations.
  • Anticipate Barriers
    • Identify barriers/problems ahead of time.
  • Design Options
    • Address barriers by providing multiple options for engagement, representation, and action/expression.
  • UDL Guidelines
    • Tool for applying the UDL framework to practice.
    • Goal of UDL is to develop expert learners.
  • UDL Guidelines arranged horizontally and vertically
    • Vertical––Engagement, Representation, and Action/Expression
    • Horizontal––Access, Build, and Internalize
    • Suggestion—start small by focusing on "Access"
  • UDL Guidelines not a “prescription” but set of suggestions UDL Guidelines External link opens in new window or tab.
  • Myth: My early learning classroom is already practicing UDL because I set up stations.
    • Reality: Station should have multiple points of access, varied means to interact with methods and materials
      • Example: Children first "build" their farm in the block area and have access to multiple media to capture their farm––dictating a story, drawing/painting a picture, etc.
  • Myth: I teach in thematic units.
    • Reality: Thematic units allow for multiple means of exploration within the theme; UDL enables multiple access points, means of representation and action/expression.
    • Questions to consider include:
      • Is the design of the lessons, stations, and environment comfortable for the children to get to, easy for them to understand, and easy to use?
      • Are there both supports and challenges built into the design of the theme?
The Preschool Frameworks, Volume 1, p. 13
  • California Preschool Frameworks
  • Applies to all young children in California, including children with disabilities or other special needs.
  • Frameworks incorporate UDL.

Exploring UDL in Early Learning
  • Example of Down on the Farm lesson plans not designed with UDL in mind.
  • Ways to build UDL principles into the lesson include:
    • Felt board story pieces
    • Interactive storybooks
    • Audible story or sound effects
    • "I Spy" the animals and letters
    • Exploring animal names/sounds in multiple languages
    • Gamify the letter matching
    • Animal tracks on the ground leading to the classroom
    • Children working together to build tracks
    • Vary the track-making options using 3D figures, cutting out patterns
  • Access in early learning focuses on:
    • Recruiting interest
    • Perception
    • Physical action
  • Build in early learning focuses on:
    • Sustaining effort and practice
    • Language and symbols
    • Expression and communication
  • Internalize in early learning focuses on:
    • Self-regulation
    • Comprehension
    • Executive functions
  • Video by Shelly Moore "The End of Average" External link opens in new window or tab.
Applying UDL in Distance Learning
  • Distance Learning = learning outside of the in-person classroom.
    • Digital, paper packets, or a combination of both
  • Need to be flexible with materials and assessment. Examples below:
    • Flexible Methods: engaging the five senses, videos and teacher recordings, creating puppets for story retelling, movement activities such as animal farm yoga
    • Flexible Materials: interactive storybooks with found materials/objects, holding up stuffed animals or pictures during songs like Old MacDonald Had a Farm, student sharing about work via digital platforms, nature walks near student homes, charting findings
    • Flexible Assessments: offer multiple ways for students to demonstrate learning via live digital platforms with recordings, conversations with parents/caregivers, pictures, work samples
  • Lessons can be synchronous or asynchronous. Asynchronous learning will rely heavily on support from parents or caregivers. Ensure parents are clear on learning goals, tasks, as well as frequent home/school communication.
UDL Benefits School Readiness
  • Promotes self-regulation
  • Means of action and expression
  • Promotes perseverance
  • Promotes self-advocacy or agency
  • Allows for more in-depth exploration and understanding
Importance of Mastery Feedback
  • Needs to be timely and frequent
  • Needs to be informative
  • Should emphasize effort, improvement
  • Methods, materials, and assessments need to be flexible.
  • Design to the edges—the average learner is a myth.
  • Start small—it's a journey, not the destination.
  • It's the environment that needs to change, not the students.

  • Additional resources for UDL are available at Padlet External link opens in new window or tab. .
Questions:   Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division | | 916-319-0881
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, September 26, 2023
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